Time to democratize caviar, says producer

Tue Nov 23, 2010 9:41am EST
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By John Irish and Elizabeth Pineau

PARIS (Reuters) - For years caviar has been synonymous with Russian Tsars or Iran's Shah, but a leading French exporter is planning a revolution to bring the prized fish eggs to the masses.

Tracing its heritage back to 1872, Prunier House is best known for a quaint Paris restaurant lying off the Champs Elysees which welcomes a bustling crowd of politicians, film stars and celebrities into its listed building every day.

At the heart of its menu is a key ingredient: homemade caviar from a shoal of sturgeon reared for the last 20 years on the estuary of the picturesque Dordogne river, about 550 km (342 miles) southwest of the French capital.

Now, with wild sturgeon facing extinction and farmed caviar becoming more accepted, Prunier is ramping up its production of the gourmet food and cutting prices to target a wider market.

"We are trying to democratize caviar," Prunier's general manager Nicolas Barruyer, told Reuters in an interview.

"We want a younger and larger client base ... and just like diamonds or champagne, caviar is like bringing an exclamation mark to the happy moments in life."

Gone are the days of the Russian Tsar's traditional recipes preserved with salt and served with vodka or Iran's Shah demanding their neighbors share the fruits of the Caspian.

New techniques mean that caviar from farmed sturgeon can be kept for longer and has a less salty taste, broadening appeal.   Continued...